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VA hires Rutgers to conduct first-of-its-kind, multi-million dollar genotyping study

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The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs has awarded a multi-million dollar, five-year contract to a Rutgers University-based research partnership to conduct a first-of-its kind genotyping study to improve the health of veterans.

The contract, valued at $7.5 million in the first year and undisclosed afterward, will be handled by the BioProcessing Solutions Alliance, a partnership consisting of RUCDR Infinite Biologics, a Busch Campus biorepository that collects and stores biological materials for investigation, and private company BioStorage Technologies.

RUCDR Chief Operating Officer Andrew Brooks said the landmark contract will improve research into medical issues affecting veterans and enable scientists to better predict what kinds of diseases veterans may encounter as a function of service or in civilian life.

"This is going to enable use to generate a better library of data that will shape the way we treat patients," said Brooks, who will serve as the project's principal investigator. "We are going to be able to do a better job not just treating diseases, but preventing diseases. This is being done for every disease state you can imagine."

Genotyping is the process of determining differences in the genetic makeup of an individual by examining DNA sequencing.

The contract calls for quality control and analysis of 100,000 DNA samples from U.S. military veterans who volunteered to participate from around the country. The program will build a database of genetic, military exposure, lifestyle, and health information.

Brooks said the Veterans Affairs department will collect blood samples from volunteering veterans at its hospitals and medical centers and submit DNA samples to the university's research facilities.

Brooks said 220,000 veterans have already agreed to participate, exceeding expectations, and 107,000 DNA samples are expected to be collected this year. Recruitment for additional volunteers will continue throughout the contract.

Brooks said revenue from the contract will be divided on a 70-30 basis in favor of RUCDR with the balance going to BioStorage, an Indianapolis-based biorepository company. RUCDR facilities are spread among four buildings at Busch Campus.

The alliance was formed 14 months ago, combining the university's research facilities and the private company's business acumen, to compete for contracts like this, Brooks said. He said this is the largest such project globally among veteran participants.

UK Biobank recruited 500,000 participants aged between 45 and 69 among the general population between years 2006 and 2010 for a similar study there.

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